Friday, 30 September 2016

On The Road by Jack Kerouac


On The Road by Jack Kerouac
Originally published in 1957.
Audible Studios audiobook edition published in January 2006.

Where to buy this book:
Buy the audiobook download from Audible via Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from Speedyhen
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository
Buy the paperback from Waterstones

How I got this book:
Purchased from Audible

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

'Sal Paradise, a young innocent, joins his hero Dean Moriarty, a traveller and mystic, the living epitome of beat, on a breathless, exuberant ride back and forth across the United States. Their hedonistic search for release or fulfilment through drink, sex, drugs and jazz becomes an exploration of personal freedom, a test of the limits of the American dream. A brilliant blend of fiction and autobiography, Jack Kerouac's exhilarating novel swings to the rhythms of 1950s underground America, racing towards the sunset with unforgettable exuberance, poignancy and autobiographical passion. One of the most influential and important novels of the 20th century, On the Road is the book that launched the beat generation and remains the bible of that literary movement.'

It took me a while to get into On The Road. I had the audiobook version read by Matt Dillon who did a great job and, I thought, had the perfect voice for Kerouac's writing style. I found the characters all basically unlikeable to begin with and it wasn't until around the middle of the story that this started to change and I began to understand and empathise with their journey and motivations. Even then, it was the wildly dysfunctional Dean that I thought was most sympathetic and I never really pinned down Sal. The descriptions of America and Mexico throughout are detailed and, purely as a portrait of a time and place, this is a fascinating book.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Jack Kerouac / Audiobooks / Books from America

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Omnia by Laura Gallego


Omnia by Laura Gallego

First published under the same title in Spain in Spanish by Random House Espanol in 2016. English translation by Jordi Castells published by AmazonCrossing in 2016.

This book is one of my WorldReads from Spain.

One of my Top Ten Books of 2016.

Where to buy this book:
Buy from independent booksellers via Abebooks
Buy the ebook from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from Speedyhen
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository

How I got this book:
Received a copy from the publisher, via NetGalley, in exchange for my honest review

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

'Where else but Omnia would a boy go looking to replace a one-of-a-kind stuffed bunny that happens to be his baby sister’s favorite toy? Scrolling through the online retailer’s extensive inventory, Nico finds what looks like a perfect match, but the item is lost somewhere in the vast Omnia warehouse. He doesn’t believe it, so he stows away in a shipment being returned to the warehouse to search for the bunny himself.
Nico quickly gets stranded on the island of Omnia, a fantastical place that does much more than sell everyday items. It is a hub for a business with intergalactic reach, and while stray visitors to Omnia are welcomed warmly, they are not permitted to leave, ever.
The adventure of a lifetime awaits Nico as he searches for the beloved toy and tries to find a way to return home.
'

Omnia has an intriguing synopsis and I chose it also for its retro cover art by Chelsea Wirtz and because its translator is Jordi Castells who I thought did a superb job with Pierced By The Sun by Laura Esquivel which I read last month. I am glad to say this concise novel didn't disappoint. It is a quick read which I devoured in a single sitting over a few hours, thoroughly enjoying every minute. Nico knows he shouldn't really have thrown out his baby sister's beloved toy rabbit and his guilt is endearing, but the sacrifice he ends up making to redeem himself is way more than he could ever have imagined.

Gallego's Omnia is, on later reflection, a disconcertingly real vision of our future and the irony of this translation being published by Amazon either shows that they do have a sense of humour or that the powers-that-be didn't actually read the book before signing it up! I loved the idea of boys hiding out for months within a warehouse where everything is available for the taking, albeit several hours walk away and you have to know exactly where to look, and the Hotel California vibe makes for a wonderfully menacing atmosphere. Extensive automation causing job reduction certainly reflects the trends I see around me as well as the first-world notion that anything is just a click away if you have the credit to buy it. Omnia is an excellent novel that is superficially an easy read, but with thought-provoking layers that I think will make it a popular choice for book clubs.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Laura Gallego / Science fiction / Books from Spain

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Hutchins Creek Cache by Deborah Garner + Giveaway



Hutchins Creek Cache by Deborah Garner
Published in America by Cranberry Cove Press on the 16th September 2016


Where to buy this book:

How I got this book:
Received a copy from Beck Valley Book Tours in exchange for my honest review

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

'Paige MacKenzie heads to the town of Hutchins Creek, Colorado, to research Old West railroad history for The Manhattan Post, with plans to meet up with her favorite cowboy, Jake Norris.

When a mysterious coin from the 1920’s is discovered behind the Hutchins Creek Railroad Museum, Paige starts digging into four generations of Hutchins family history.

As legends of steam engines and coin mintage mingle, will Paige discover the true origin of the coin or will she find herself dangerously close to more than one long-hidden town secret?'

I was drawn to read Hutchins Creek Cache by the beautiful cover art of this Paige Mackenzie romantic mystery series, especially the evocative train adorning its most recent installment. The covers are all created by Keri Knutsen at Alchemy Book Covers. Although I have started mid-series, I didn't find any problem in reading the novel out of order as the mystery aspect is a self-contained tale and there are enough brief nods to the overarching romantic storyline for me to easily establish Paige and Jake's relationship journey.

The community aspect of small town America is very much to the fore here and there is a cosy, familial vibe throughout the book. Little Sam is probably the strongest of the characters - a wonderfully precocious five year old - and I particularly enjoyed Garner's creation and descriptions of Hutchins Creek itself. Is this actually a real town? Not knowing that part of America at all, it is certainly somewhere I would like to visit! This style of clean romance novel isn't my usual reading fare so I was surprised by several almost coy moments, but 'stronger' scenes would skew the book's dynamic and I liked the real affection between Paige and Jake. I won't talk about the mystery itself except to say that it is nicely plotted with a satisfying conclusion. Perhaps a couple of Paige's conclusions along the way are overly lucky leaps of logic, but it's fun to follow her investigation.


"Can't say enough about this book! Wonderful! Deborah Garner is a wonderful writer! She makes you feel like you are right there with Paige and Jake. I loved the setting of Hutchins Creek and the characters were all great. I was on pins and needles and even shed a tear or two. I can't wait for more of this series!"  review from Goodreads


More Paige MacKenzie Mysteries

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"This book held my interest from start to finish. It was beautifully written with such great descriptions that I could picture the town and landscapes." - review of Above the Bridge

"Delightful . Loved the explorations into the old mines and the side love stories. Mist was a special person with exceptional insight." - review of The Moonglow Cafe

 "The author does a great job in vividly describing the resort, town and surrounding landscape, she makes you feel like you are actually there. She also has a gift for making her characters come to life." - review of Three Silver Doves
Above reviews from Amazon.com

About the author

Deborah Garner is an accomplished travel writer with a passion for back roads and secret hideaways. Born and raised in California, she studied in France before returning to the U.S. to attend UCLA. After stints in graduate school and teaching, she attempted to clone herself for decades by founding and running a dance and performing arts center, designing and manufacturing clothing and accessories, and tackling both spreadsheets and display racks for corporate retail management. Her passions include photography, hiking and animal rescue. She speaks five languages, some substantially better than others. She now divides her time between California and Wyoming, dragging one human and two canines along whenever possible.

Find the author on the following sites...



Follow the book tour

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(winners choice)
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Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Deborah Garner / Mysteries / Books from America

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman


The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
First published in America in The New England Magazine in 1892.

Where to buy this book:
Buy the ebook from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from Speedyhen
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository
Buy the paperback from Waterstones

How I got this book:
Bought from a charity shop

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

'Presented in the first person, the story is a collection of journal entries written by a woman whose physician husband (John) has rented an old mansion for the summer. Foregoing other rooms in the house, the couple moves into the upstairs nursery. As a form of treatment she is forbidden from working, and is encouraged to eat well and get plenty of exercise and air, so she can recuperate from what he calls a "temporary nervous depression - a slight hysterical tendency", a diagnosis common to women in that period. She hides her journal from her husband and his sister the housekeeper, fearful of being reproached for overworking herself. The room's windows are barred to prevent children from climbing through them, and there is a gate across the top of the stairs, though she and her husband have access to the rest of the house and its adjoining estate. The story depicts the effect of under-stimulation on the narrator's mental health and her descent into psychosis. With nothing to stimulate her, she becomes obsessed by the pattern and color of the wallpaper.'

Hot on the heels of another classic of 'women's mental health' fiction - The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath which I read and reviewed two weeks ago - I was excited to spot a disintegrating Virago edition of The Yellow Wallpaper on the Rowcroft Hospice charity book table in Torquay Indoor Market. I had read discussions of this story on the Goodreads-Bookcrossing Decade Challenge forums last year, but had not previously read the work itself.

At only twenty-eight pages, The Yellow Wallpaper is a quick read and a strangely powerful one. I was horrified at the thought of this woman who seemed obviously to be suffering post-natal depression being effectively shut away in solitary confinement. And this was considered a cure! Her patronising husband angered me intensely although I know that such ignorant attitudes were the norm until relatively recently. Being aware of the truthful basis to the story only increases its atmosphere and I loved how Gilman paces her reveal for maximum impact. I think The Yellow Wallpaper is a deserved classic on several fronts: as a short horror story, as feminist literature, and as a compelling evocation of mental breakdown.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Charlotte Perkins Gilman / Short stories / Books from America

Monday, 26 September 2016

The Ark Before Noah by Irving Finkel


The Ark Before Noah: Decoding the Story of the Flood by Irving Finkel
Published by Hodder And Stoughton in January 2014.

Where to buy this book:
Buy the audiobook download from Audible via Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from Speedyhen
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository
Buy the paperback from Waterstones

How I got this book:
Bought the audiobook download from Audible

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I downloaded The Ark Before Noah in a version which is read by the author, Dr Irving Finkel. For the first few minutes, I found his unpolished narrating style awkward to listen to and wondered if I had made a mistake. However, once his wonderful enthusiasm began to shine through, I was hooked. Finkel discusses his academic life, British Museum career and fabulous fairly-recent discovery of an ancient clay tablet containing details concerning the story of the ark and the flood. He also introduces us to the earliest origins of the story - waaay before the Hebrew Bible - and collects together other tablets with parts of the famous tale and shows how it evolved over some 4000 years into what we know today.

I was particularly fascinated by the comprehensive comparisons of the different tablets and their meshing story versions. As I have only heard the heroes' names, I am not going to attempt to spell them, but it had not previously occurred to me that Noah wasn't always called Noah! The earliest flood version wasn't occasioned by sin either - humans had simply become too noisy for the Gods to endure! Finkel goes into immense detail in his tablet comparions. He examines ark building techniques, mountain landing sites, and intricacies of language in a way that could be too in depth for less nerdy souls. I appreciated his dry humour throughout but am unsure whether this would come across via the printed page. This purely aural version obviously didn't contain images though so I think now a trip to the British Museum is called for so I can see the Ark tablet and Babylonian Map tablet 'in the flesh'. I am so intrigued by their existence that I might visit even if it's not raining!


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Irving Finkel / History / Books from England

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Paper Towns by John Green


Paper Towns by John Green
Published in October 2008 by Dutton Books. Film version released in July 2015.

Where to buy this book:
Buy the book from Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from Speedyhen
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository
Buy the paperback from Waterstones

How I got this book:
Purchased the ebook

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I felt ominously lurgified when choosing the YA novel Paper Towns as the easiest read of the selection on our Kindle. Set in Orlando, Florida, the novel tells of a group of High School students during the few weeks prior to their graduation. One girl, Margo, mysteriously disappears leaving her besotted childhood friend Q going to ever more bizarre lengths to find her.

The main strength of Paper Towns is in its depiction of the relationship between Q and his two best friends Ben and Radar. I thought this trio were very realistic and fun to read about. Their dialogue actually got me laughing out loud several times. By contrast, the female characters seemed more stereotypical and the continual emphasis on their appearances was irritating. All the students are also remarkably affluent - $100s of dollars are spent without any of them appearing to have jobs! I did like the descriptions of the 'paper towns' that were planned but never came into existence. There are a lot of these houseless plots in Spain so reading about the American version was topical for me.

Paper Towns is an ok light read but I found it difficult to buy into the main premise that Q would go to so much trouble for a girl who has basically ignored him for the best part of a decade. We are told he idolises her but, for me, his potentially jeopardising a college future that is fantastically important to him purely for the sake of a one-night madcap adventure was stretching credibility too far. I also missed out on much of the poetical theorising having not read the Whitman poem that was analysed. I've not read any of his poems and am starting to think I must get a collection to browse through - he is namedropped so often in American literature! Anyway, having got through the whole novel in an afternoon, the writing is indeed easy on the brain and there are some great humorous moments that took my mind off feeling poorly. Love the beer sword! However, the time-sensitive ending is too contrived - perhaps written with one eye on a film script - and I didn't like the last scene at all.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by John Green / Young adult / Books from America

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Trust Me I Lie by Louise Marley


Trust Me I Lie by Louise Marley
Published in June 2016

Where to buy this book:
Buy the ebook from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk

How I got this book:
Bought the ebook from Amazon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

'When Milla Graham arrives in the picture-perfect village of Buckley, she tells everyone she’s investigating the murder of her mother who died eighteen years ago. But there’s already one Milla Graham buried in the churchyard and another about to be found dead in the derelict family mansion.
Obviously she’s lying.
Detective Inspector Ben Taylor has no life outside the police force. Even his own colleagues think he’s a boring stick-in-the-mud. But now he’s met Milla and his safe, comfortable life has been turned upside down. She’s crashed his car, emptied his wallet and is about to get him fired.
He knows she’s a liar because she cheerfully told him so.
Unless she’s lying about that too …
'

I enjoyed reading Nemesis by Louise Marley last year so was eager to buy her new crime thriller when I saw it released. There are similarities between Nemesis and Trust Me I Lie with both novels being driven by the solution of a past crime and the revelation of family secrets. We also have an amazing heroine here in Milla Graham, a devious and mouthy young woman who is sorely lacking in social niceties. She is great fun to read although I did struggle to remember that she was supposed to be in her mid-twenties. I often felt she seemed much younger. On the downside, I couldn't quite get a handle on Ben who, at times, did seem just a tad too naive, but I liked his colleague Harriet a lot and also icy Lydia.

The twists and turns of Trust Me I Lie do require concentration on the part of the reader which I appreciated. I like a book which makes me think! The vintage fairytale references provide added depth to the story and I now find myself wanting to go find a copy of Alice In Wonderland as this classic is beautifully entwined in our mystery. Marley again makes great use of her location research and I loved the idea of the impersonal new Graham house having been built practically alongside the fire-damaged ruins of the old family home. This juxtaposition worked really well for me, especially with chocolate box Buckley close by.

If you're looking for a satisfying mystery to cosy up with as the evenings draw in, I would happily recommend Trust Me I Lie to you. And that's not a lie. Promise!


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Louise Marley / Crime fiction / Books from England

Friday, 23 September 2016

Between Shades Of Gray by Ruta Sepetys


Between Shades Of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
First published in America by the Penguin Group in 2011.

I registered my copy of this book at Bookcrossing

Where to buy this book:
Buy the book from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from Speedyhen
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository
Buy the paperback from Waterstones

How I got this book:
Bought from a charity shop

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

'In 1941, fifteen-year-old Lina is preparing for art school, first dates, and all that summer has to offer. But one night, the Soviet secret police barge violently into her home, deporting her along with her mother and younger brother. They are being sent to Siberia. Lina's father has been separated from the family and sentenced to death in a prison camp. All is lost.
Lina fights for her life, fearless, vowing that if she survives she will honor her family, and the thousands like hers, by documenting their experience in her art and writing. She risks everything to use her art as messages, hoping they will make their way to her father's prison camp to let him know they are still alive. It is a long and harrowing journey, and it is only their incredible strength, love, and hope that pull Lina and her family through each day. But will love be enough to keep them alive?'

The first journey Dave and I made together was to Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, and while there we visited the former NKVD headquarters so I already had some idea of the horrific suffering inflicted on the Lithuanian people during Stalin's years of power. Reading Between Shades Of Gray reminded of that visit and also provided a vivid recounting of those people's experiences during the 1940s and 1950s. On one hand this book is an easy read. It was originally intended for a young adult audience so the prose is relatively simple and moves along at a swift pace. On the other hand, the stark writing and unadorned, matter-of-fact tone serve to intensify what Lina and her family are forced to endure. I was frequently emotionally moved by the deportees' strength of mind, their courage in such overwhelming conditions and their incredible resilience.

Sepetys has based this fictional tale on many first-hand accounts by survivors so, while it is not actually a true story, the events described are essentially what really happened. To realise that this experience of vicious exile was common to thousands and thousands of people, many of whom never returned, is sobering and I still don't understand how, as humans, we can continually be so cruel to each other. I see the same hateful paranoia today directed towards 'other' peoples. It would be great to read Between Shades Of Gray solely as historical fiction and be relieved that this kind of violent discrimination no longer occurs in our world. Perhaps one day that might be possible?


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Ruta Sepetys / Young adult books / Books from America

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said by Philip K Dick


Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said by Philip K Dick
First published in America by Doubleday in 1974. Audiobook narrated by Scott Brick published by Blackstone Audio in 2007.

This is my 1970s book for the Goodreads / Bookcrossing Decade Challenge.

Where to buy this book:
Buy the audiobook from Audible via Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from Speedyhen
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository
Buy the paperback from Waterstones

How I got this book:
Bought the audiobook from Audible

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

'Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said grapples with many of the themes Philip K. Dick is best known for - identity, altered reality, drug use, and dystopia - in a rollicking chase story that earned the novel the John W. Campbell Award and nominations for the Hugo and Nebula.

Jason Taverner - world-famous talk show host and man-about-town - wakes up one day to find that no one knows who he is - including the vast databases of the totalitarian government. And in a society where lack of identification is a crime, Taverner has no choice but to go on the run with a host of shady characters, including crooked cops and dealers of alien drugs. But do they know more than they are letting on? And just how can a person's identity be erased overnight?'

I listened to the Blackstone Audio edition of this book, expertly narrated by Scott Brick, however can now only find the Brilliance Audio edition to link to so I hope it has as good a performance of the work.

Flow My Tears, for me, is wonderfully dated classic science fiction that incorporates what has now become a bizarre mix of still-futuristic and old-fashioned ideas. Set in the then future of 1988, people drive flying cars and live in hovering apartments, but listen to LP records and have to run to find public payphones. Dick's totalitarian state is cleverly evoked to be a menacing presence surrounding our talk show host hero and I loved that its powerful face is actually backed by inept bureaucracy. Dick has a great descriptive turn of phrase and I could easily picture the decrepit forger's lab, the clinical police academy, luxury apartments and the Buckman's museum-cluttered home.

Once we come to the characters, I am less rapturous though. For someone supposedly genetically engineered to ooze charm, I found Jason Taverner surprisingly unlikeable. The female characters are pretty well defined, especially Alys and Mary Anne, and McNulty was real to me too. I did struggle to understand the point of many of the longer rambling conversations though, particularly those where characters veered off into deep philosophical exchanges seemingly within minutes of meeting each other. There is a lot of repetition of basic facts too although, annoyingly, not when it really would have been helpful such as in explaining just what was going on! I thought I was successfully staying with the mad reality hops and even had a couple of good theories, but then the coroner started his explanation which caused my brain to overheat and quietly melt away!

I was less impressed than I had hoped I would be with Philip K Dick. I liked the scene-setting and overall idea of a famous man cast adrift as a nonentity, but there were several occasions when I felt as though I had missed his point somewhere down the line. Perhaps I should have chosen an earlier of his titles as a starter?


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Philip K Dick / Science fiction / Books from America

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

The Bitter Trade by Piers Alexander + Giveaway


The Bitter Trade by Piers Alexander
First published by Tenderfoot in June 2014.

Where to buy this book:
Buy the ebook from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from Speedyhen
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository
Buy the paperback from Waterstones

How I got this book:
Received a copy from its publisher, via NetGalley, in exchange for my honest review.

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

'In 1688, torn by rebellions, England lives under the threat of a Dutch invasion. Redheaded Calumny Spinks is the lowliest man in an Essex backwater: half-French and still unapprenticed at seventeen, yet he dreams of wealth and title. When his father's violent past resurfaces, Cal's desperation leads him to become a coffee racketeer. He has just three months to pay off a blackmailer and save his father s life - but his ambition and talent for mimicry pull him into a conspiracy against the King himself. Cal's journey takes him from the tough life of Huguenot silk weavers to the vicious intrigues at Court. As the illicit trader Benjamin de Corvis and his controlling daughter Emilia pull him into their plots, and his lover Violet Fintry is threatened by impending war, Cal is forced to choose between his conscience and his dream of becoming Mister Calumny Spinks.'

I was attracted to The Bitter Trade by its historical setting. The seventeenth century was an exciting period in English history, and one which I don't yet know much about. Alexander has created a wily young hero with a great turn of phrase, given him the improbable name of Calumny Spinks, and let him loose on unsuspecting 1680s London. Lots of story threads are entwined and tangled throughout the long novel and I did often find it difficult to keep track of all the subterfuges. Perhaps a case of too many competing ideas?
 Calumny is a fun character to spend time with although other characters aren't so convincingly portrayed, but I did like Abigail, Ty and Garric, and also Calumny's father Peter. The descriptions of places, clothes, attitudes and behaviours are wonderfully vivid, however, and provide a fabulous and wee-researched portrait of the city at that time. I liked being able to imagine the closed world of the coffee houses, the claustrophobic and loud weaving sheds, and the army barracks. Overall, The Bitter Trade is a scheming romp of a novel which does a great job of entertaining its readers.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Piers Alexander / Historical fiction / Books from England


And now for the Giveaway!

I was fortunate to receive a brand new paperback copy of The Bitter Trade from The Pigeonhole recently and that is going to be my Giveaway prize for this week. The company also sent some delicious coffee which I have reviewed on Stephanie Jane today.

'The Pigeonhole is the global book club in your pocket A book was once the best means of mass communication; now it is the phone. But there is no longer a need to choose between the two. The Pigeonhole is at the forefront of a new era of mobile reading, launching our titles in bite-sized instalments, or staves, designed to fit into any reader’s life.
All our books, from classics to new releases, are Pigeon-picked by a team of industry-trained professionals. Each serialisation is accompanied by bonus content – from interviews with the author to audio staves, playlists and photographs. Meet real-time with the author and other readers inside the book, or set up a private book club to read and discuss with friends and family.
Launched in September 2014, The Pigeonhole has already been nominated for the Digital Innovation Awards at the London Book Fair, and its founding editor Anna Jean Hughes was named as a Rising Star of the publishing industry by The Bookseller magazine.'

The Bitter Trade by Piers Alexander Giveaway

The Giveaway is open worldwide. Entries must be submitted through the Gleam widget by midnight (UK time) on the 28th September and I will randomly pick a winner on the 29th. If the winner does not respond to my email within 7 days, they will forfeit the prize and, yes, I will be checking that entrants did complete whatever task they said they did.

Good luck!

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Chinese Cinderella by Adeline Yen Mah


Chinese Cinderella: The Secret Story of an Unwanted Daughter by Adeline Yen Mah
First published by Delacorte Press in September 1999. The book is part of Yen Mah's biography Falling Leaves, republished in abridged form for a younger audience.

Where to buy this book:
Buy the book from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from Speedyhen
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository
Buy the paperback from Waterstones

How I got this book:
Bought from a charity shop

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

'A riveting memoir of a girl's painful coming-of-age in a wealthy Chinese family during the 1940s.
A Chinese proverb says, "Falling leaves return to their roots." In Chinese Cinderella, Adeline Yen Mah returns to her roots to tell the story of her painful childhood and her ultimate triumph and courage in the face of despair. Adeline's affluent, powerful family considers her bad luck after her mother dies giving birth to her. Life does not get any easier when her father remarries. She and her siblings are subjected to the disdain of her stepmother, while her stepbrother and stepsister are spoiled. Although Adeline wins prizes at school, they are not enough to compensate for what she really yearns for -- the love and understanding of her family.'

I read Chinese Cinderella in September 2013 and this is another of my recently rediscovered and unblogged mini book reviews. I remember that I left the book on a Hailsham park bench for Bookcrossing. I wonder where it has got to now?

Chinese Cinderella is an interesting glimpse into the life of a Chinese girl from a wealthy family living in Tianjin and Shanghai in the 1940s. The book is a Puffin and intended for a younger audience so does not go into great depth about the political and social situation in China at the time although there is an overview at the end. It is more concerned with scenes from Adeline's early life with which older children could identify. The book was very quick to read and has encouraged me to look out for the 'adult' version of Adeline's autobiography, Falling Leaves.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Adeline Yen Mah / Biography and memoir / Books from China

Monday, 19 September 2016

Reading Lolita In Tehran by Azar Nafisi


Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi
Published by Random House in December 2003.

I registered a book at BookCrossing

Where to buy this book:
Buy the book from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from Speedyhen
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository
Buy the paperback from Waterstones

How I got this book:
Swapped for in a campsite book exchange

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was attracted to Reading Lolita In Tehran by its promise of revealing life within Iran and also by the Margaret Atwood quote on the front of 'A book lover's tale'. Published as memoir, Nafisi does state right at the start that she had to change names and events in order to protect those remaining in Iran therefore it is hard to tell how much is actually true and how much flavoured by truth but essentially fiction. What is overwhelmingly apparent throughout is Nafisi's obsessive love for the greats of Western fiction and the energy she devotes to spreading this love as far as she can.

Always a teacher, I did feel hectored by her tone at certain points in the book and there are frequent swings off into pure literary criticism. I wasn't expecting so much of a book about books so it took me a while to adjust to 'joining her class'. However, I now have several of the titles added to my To Be Read list as Nafisi's enthusiasm is inspiring. I'm not sure that I agree with all her critical conclusions and some of the connections drawn between the literary worlds and Iran seemed tenuous, but not having been in such a situation myself, I cannot tell how my reading of the books would be coloured by the daily lives these women lead.

The title of Reading Lolita In Tehran is obviously meant to be titillatingly eyecatching to a potential Western reader and I think it actually detracts from the content of the memoir. Yes, Lolita is one of the many books discussed, but the choice of this for the title seems cynical to me.
I wanted to learn how Iranian people adjusted to the restrictions on their lives after the Revolution. The difference between the neutral view presented of people who are religious Muslims and anger at those in power who used their interpretation of Islam to enforce the rigid lifestyle is interesting. Nafisi did seem to glide a line that allowed her to get away with transgressions for which her students were punished, even jailed. Perhaps her family name is more powerful than admitted or perhaps her previous Westernisation marked her as a lost cause compared to the younger girls. I was frustrated by her lack of external attention, several times admitting she hadn't noticed or asked something at the time that I would have loved to have learned. However, I feel I now have a basic understanding of Iran at this time as well as, of course, many insights into classic novels that I must get around to reading.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Azar Nafisi / Biography and memoir / Books from Iran

Sunday, 18 September 2016

The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson


The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson
Published by Bloomsbury in August 2010. Won the Man Booker Prize.

Where to buy this book:
Buy the ebook from Amazon
Buy the paperback from Speedyhen
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository
Buy the paperback from Waterstones

How I got this book:
Borrowed from a friend

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

'Julian Treslove, a professionally unspectacular former BBC radio producer, and Sam Finkler, a popular Jewish philosopher, writer and television personality, are old school friends. Despite very different lives, they've never quite lost touch with each other - or with their former teacher, Libor Sevcik. Both Libor and Finkler are recently widowed, and together with Treslove they share a sweetly painful evening revisiting a time before they had loved and lost. It is that very evening, when Treslove hesitates a moment as he walks home, that he is attacked - and his whole sense of who and what he is slowly and ineluctably changes.'

The Finkler Question is a great example of not believing everything you are told! Having been seduced by the many quotes on the covers and inside the first few pages, I was expecting a hysterically funny novel.
Oh dear.

Our hero, the improbably named Julian Treslove, is particularly unsympathetic. Humour is attempted from his attempts to create a Jewish identity for himself because he is apparently so jealous of 'their' sense of family and solidarity. Many discussions are had about what Jewish people do or don't do, think or don't think. These themes are overworked by about a third of the way through the novel, but carry on regardless. He has had a number of relationships, all with women whose names begin with J, and views all his partners in terms of tragic opera heroines. His sons, whom he 'hilariously' cannot tell apart, have operatic names and one of their mother's not knowing her Puccini from her Verdi is running joke.

The best I managed was a smattering of wry smiles. I guess I am not typical of Jacobsen's target market, but even so, I have no idea how The Finkler Question managed to be a Booker Prize winner. I've given it a two star 'meh' rating because I did plough through to the end rather than giving up. However I don't recommend anyone else to bother!


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Howard Jacobson / Humour / Books from England

Saturday, 17 September 2016

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath


The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
First published in 1963 by William Heinemann Ltd.
This is my 1960s book for the Goodreads / Bookcrossing Decade Challenge.

Where to buy this book:
Buy the book from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from Speedyhen
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository
Buy the paperback from Waterstones

How I got this book:
Borrowed from a friend

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

'I was supposed to be having the time of my life.
When Esther Greenwood wins an internship on a New York fashion magazine in 1953, she is elated, believing she will finally realise her dream to become a writer. But in between the cocktail parties and piles of manuscripts, Esther's life begins to slide out of control. She finds herself spiralling into depression and eventually a suicide attempt, as she grapples with difficult relationships and a society which refuses to take women's aspirations seriously.

The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath's only novel, was originally published in 1963 under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas. The novel is partially based on Plath's own life and descent into mental illness, and has become a modern classic. The Bell Jar has been celebrated for its darkly funny and razor sharp portrait of 1950s society and has sold millions of copies worldwide.'

I am lucky to have read The Bell Jar by choice, borrowing a copy from a friend who also loved the book, rather than having to read it for school and I think these different approaches significantly influence how people feel about Plath's semi-autobiographical novel. At the very beginning I was reminded of Rona Jaffe's The Best Of Everything which was written around the same time and also examines the lives of young women in New York. However it is Plath's rejection of society's restricted expectations for women which, for me, made The Bell Jar an interesting novel and The Best Of Everything seem somewhat vacuous.

I was surprised at Plath's matter-of-fact language, especially when describing some of the horrors of what passed for mental health care in 1950s America. I think it is this removal from herself which was the strongest symptom of her breakdown, but it made it difficult for me to get under the skin of her writing. I am used to more overt emotion. I found myself wondering how much of The Bell Jar was actually fiction and how much truth. Being always aware that Plath did commit suicide shortly after the book was first published coloured my reading of it, especially in scenes where Esther feels herself blocked from following her dreams due to her gender and where the opposite applies and she meets role model career women - writers, doctors, psychiatrists - but does not recognise the potential of their example, locked away as she in in her metaphorical bell jar.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Sylvia Plath / Contemporary fiction / Books from America

Friday, 16 September 2016

The King Of Taksim Square by Emrah Serbes


The King of Taksim Square by Emrah Serbes
First published as Deliduman in Turkish in Turkey by Iletisim Yayincilik in 2014. English translation by Mark David Wyers published by AmazonCrossing in January 2016.
One of my WorldReads from Turkey

Where to buy this book:
Buy from independent booksellers via Abebooks
Buy the ebook from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from Speedyhen
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publishers via NetGalley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

'Seventeen-year-old Çağlar is just another apathetic teenager—except when it comes to his sister, Çiğdem, who he believes is the world’s most beautiful and brilliant nine-year-old. Determined to display her genius, Çağlar grooms Çiğdem’s talent into a perfect Michael Jackson impersonation and pursues a sure route to fame: YouTube.
Tragically, Çağlar’s efforts are sabotaged by a little incident internationally known as the Taksim riots. Now it seems that everyone’s too busy watching the people’s uprising unfold to click on Çiğdem’s video. That leaves Çağlar only one recourse: he will have to use the riots to his advantage. After all, who wouldn’t want to watch a child doing the moonwalk against the backdrop of political unrest? But as Çağlar strives to showcase his sister, he finds himself pulled into the heart of the uprising and discovers that he may just have talent of his own.
From bestselling author Emrah Serbes comes a hilarious, poignant story of a teen’s struggle to find his place and launch his sister’s star amid Turkey’s real-life fight for freedom.'

While reading The King Of Taksim Square, Serbes' protagonist, seventeen-year-old Caglar, reminded me a lot of Holden Caulfield because of the style of his direct narration and its stream of consciousness energy. Interestingly I struggled to finish Catcher In The Rye but enjoyed this book far more. Caglar is a bigshot in his small town, mainly because his Uncle is the corrupt Mayor. Caglar expects his name alone to open doors and gain favours, but this world view begins to be challenged when his beloved younger sister, Cigdem, enters a talent competition dancing as Michael Jackson. Cigdem is everything to Caglar and he cannot believe that the TV company fails to see how amazing she is. Attempting to promote Cigdem by social media channels instead, Caglar posts her dance on YouTube where it has modest success until an Istanbul protest steals her thunder.

It did take me a while to get into this book and I have since read of other reviewers abandoning it early on. The initial meandering style does tighten up and, as we learn who everyone is, there are fewer diversions into back stories. However Caglar's short attention span remains and I enjoyed his focus changes, especially once he gets to Istanbul and the epicentre of its protest and riots. The King Of Taksim Square has a strong nostalgic thread running throughout which is nicely contrasted with modern technological and social elements. Caglar is constantly hankering for the past sometimes specifically to his experience - such as the now-vanished site of his first kiss - or as a more general longing for the way Turkey used to be. He wants the latest iPhone, but insists on referring to shops and cafes with the names of businesses that preceded them.

The scenes of the protest themselves are exciting but baffling, much as they must have really been to many people there at the time, and Caglar sees most of the action in relation to himself, not as part of the wider picture. This is in keeping with his character although I did have to read up about the politics of it all after finishing the novel. I thought The King Of Taksim Square was an engaging read that gave an unusual insight into Turkish life.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Emrah Serbes / Humour and satire / Books from Turkey

Thursday, 15 September 2016

The Eskimo Solution by Pascal Garnier


The Eskimo Solution by Pascal Garnier
First published as La Solution Esquimau in French in France by Zulma in 2006. English translation by Emily Boyce and Jane Aitken published by Gallic Books in September 2016.

Where to buy this book:
Buy from independent booksellers via Abebooks
Buy the ebook from Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from Speedyhen
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

'A crime writer uses the modest advance on his latest novel to rent a house on the Normandy coast. There should be little to distract him from his work besides walks on the windswept beach, but as he begins to tell the tale of forty-something Louis – who, after dispatching his own mother, goes on to relieve others of their burdensome elderly relations – events in his own life begin to overlap with the work of his imagination.'

Pascal Garnier is one of my favourite French authors so I was delighted when Gallic Books contacted me to offer a copy of his newest work in translation. I don't think The Eskimo Solution has quite the power of (in my opinion) his best novel, The Panda Theory, but it is still an atmospheric piece of noir storytelling that I thoroughly enjoyed reading.

We begin by meeting Louis the fictional character in Paris where he is musing on his plot to solve his financial problems by murdering his mother and prematurely receiving his inheritance. On the turn of a paragraph, we then switch to the real world of Louis the crime writer, the beginnings of whose novel we have just been reading. It sounds confusing, but I found the different writing styles made it easy to tell whose reality I was in and I liked the parallels of the two storylines. Of course, once the storylines begin to blur it is less easy to tell the real from the fiction and that is where Garnier's talent for darkness kicks in.

I did have to imagine part of The Eskimo Solution several decades further back in time than it is actually set in order for me to believe that Louis-the-fictional could get away with his Great Plan. There's obviously no forensic science in his reality! Garnier's coastal Normandy setting is brilliantly evoked though enabling me to envisage exactly where Louis-the-writer was living. It was fun to think that Dave and I could have been the English couple at Ouistreham! I would happily recommend The Eskimo Solution to fans of vintage crime novels and French noir.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Pascal Garnier / Crime fiction / Books from France

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Not The End by Kate Vane + Giveaway


Not the End by Kate Vane
Published in February 2014.
One of my Top Ten Books for IndiePrideDay 2016.

Where to buy this book:
Buy the ebook from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk

How I got this book:
Received a copy from the author in return for an honest review.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

'There’s a summer heatwave in Dormouth, the Devon seaside town and former home of the artist Hugh Bonnington. No one pays much attention to octogenarian sea swimmer Maud Smith, recently arrived from Portugal. But when she drowns and her body is washed up on the beach, she changes the lives of three people she never met. Brenda, insomniac dog walker, finds Maud’s body and loses a husband. Jim, reluctant heir hunter and committed birdwatcher, thinks he’s found love, if he can only escape London. Philosopher-drunk Neil, the cemetery manager, plans Maud’s funeral then finds that art has a funny way of interfering with life. With wry humour and sharp observation, Not the End is a contemporary novel about love, loss and the therapeutic possibilities of knitting.'

Although the focus of Literary Flits is world literature, I am also trying to include occasional books written by authors from our new home county of Devon. Kate Vane is one such author.

Not The End is set in a generic coastal Devon town which is an amalgam of such seaside resorts. At the time of reading   I had not been to that part of the world since childhood holidays, but could easily picture the scenes thanks to Kate Vane's atmospheric descriptions. We follow the experiences of a trio of strangers whose lives intersect following the discovery on the beach by one, Brenda, of an elderly woman who drowned.

I loved Vane's creation of her characters. Each of the leads are very real, as are their friends, co-workers and families. It is not easy to maintain strong characters with such a large cast of faces to keep track of, but Vane does a great job. Even in chapters where it could be a page or more before significant names are mentioned, I found I always knew whose story I was reading. Brenda's story is particularly poignant and I was willing her to stand up to the ghastly Paula. I also liked Teri as I could picture someone with whom I have worked who was just like that!

There is a lot of gentle humour in Not The End and some wonderfully witty digs too. Vane's sharp observations of people's behaviour raised several giggles from me. The confidence of the weatherman was one such instance and I would love to know which real cafe the wonderfully child-UNfriendly one is based on. Wicked of me to say so, but it sounds like just our sort of place! I enjoyed the time I spent in Dormouth and would be happy to return there should a second novel be written.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Kate Vane / Humour and satire / Books from England


And now for the Giveaway!

This week I am giving away an ebook copy of Not The End by way of a gift card for its cost from either Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk. There's lots of different ways to enter and they'll be tracked by the Gleam widget just below


Not The End by Kate Vane Giveaway


The Giveaway is open worldwide but please make sure you can use an Amazon gift card! Entries must be submitted through the Gleam widget by midnight (UK time) on the 21st September and I will randomly pick a winner on the 22nd. The winner can choose from which Amazon site they would like their gift card - I think I can buy this from any of the international sites as long as I can understand the instruction language! If the winner does not respond within 7 days, they will forfeit the prize.

Good luck!

This Giveaway is listed in the Beck Valley Books Giveaway And Sweeps Linkup


Tuesday, 13 September 2016

About The Night by Anat Talshir


About The Night by Anat Talshir
First published in Hebrew as Im Eshkahekh by Kinneret Zmora-Bitan Dvir in Israel in 2010. English translation by Evan Fallenberg published by AmazonCrossing in 2016.

Where to buy this book:
Buy from independent booksellers via Abebooks
Buy the ebook from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository
Buy the paperback from Waterstones

How I got this book:
Received a copy from the publisher, via NetGalley, in exchange for my honest review.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

'On a hot summer day in 1947, on a grandstand overlooking Jerusalem, Elias and Lila fall deeply, irrevocably in love. Tragically, they come from two different worlds. Elias is a Christian Arab living on the eastern side of the newly divided city, and Lila is a Jew living on the western side. A growing conflict between their cultures casts a heavy shadow over the region and their burgeoning relationship. Between them lie not only a wall of stone and barbed wire but also the bitter enmity of two nations at war. Told in the voice of Elias as he looks back upon the long years of his life, About the Night is a timely story of how hope can nourish us, loss can devastate us, and love can carry us beyond the boundaries that hold human beings apart.'

I was surprised in reading About The Night by similarities to another recent read of mine, The Memory Of Love by Aminatta Forna. Both are intense love stories whose male protagonist is named Elias - Elias Riani here, Elias Cole in The Memory Of Love - who tells of his love from a hospital bed looking back across the years. Both are set in countries at war - Israel and Sierra Leone. Both have a dual timeline of then and now, and I thought both were absolutely beautiful to read.

About The Night is seared through with a heartbreaking melancholy which, at one point, is identified with the Turkish huzun from Istanbul. It is a novel of tremendous passion and deep emotion with our doomed lovers, Elias and Lila, stranded within a quarter mile of each other, but possibly eternally separated by the whims of unknown men who arbitrarily divide their city, Jerusalem, in 1947. (Yes, that would be us British with the guns, again.) I loved the literary writing and detailed evocation of Jewish and Arabic life especially descriptions of seemingly mundane acts such as tea making rituals which take on greater meaning as the story progresses. Talshir writes wonderfully human characters who are completely believable in their extreme circumstances. Weak Elias and strong Lila, isolated Nomi and bitter Margo, and the ever stroppy Monsieur Hubron. I did occasionally find myself confused as to which time period I was in, but generally the jumps were were fluid and the violence throughout Israel's short existence provides a shocking counterpoint to the gentle pace and prose of the book.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Anat Talshir / Contemporary fiction / Books from Israel

Monday, 12 September 2016

A Straits Settlement by Brian Stoddart


A Straits Settlement by Brian Stoddart
Published by Crime Wave Press in May 2016.

One of my WorldReads from New Zealand

Where to buy this book:
Buy from independent booksellers via Abebooks
Buy the ebook from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository
Buy the paperback from Waterstones

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

'In the third installment of the Le Fanu Mystery series, the intrepid superintendent is promoted to Inspector-General of Police in 1920s Madras, which proves to be more boring than he had envisaged. Instead of pushing papers across his desk, the Le Fanu focuses on the disappearance of a senior Indian Civil Service officer and an apparently unrelated murder. As the two incidents intertwine, the world weary detective is drawn into the worlds of indentured labor recruitment and antiquities theft.. But as bureaucratic politics make his position vulnerable, his superiors send the intrepid policeman across the Bay of Bengal to pursue the cases in the Straits Settlements. Le Fanu immediately becomes embroiled in the activities of secret societies and the British colonial intelligence services. The appearance of a mysterious Chinese woman renders his professional life uncertain as he wonders anew about the British imperial future.'

My initial concern about reading A Straits Settlement was jumping into Stoddart's Superintendent Le Fanu series at its third volume. I wondered whether I would already have missed out on too much of the background information, but this turned out not to be a problem. There are nods to the two previous novels, but enough back story is reiterated to make reading A Straits Settlement satisfying and the hints to other stories are enticing. The mystery unfolds in 1920s India and Malaysia so I found myself in the same world as The Roar Of The Tiger by Annie Ayre, albeit a few years earlier. Stoddart shows the rigid class and race barriers and the ridiculously stilted British Raj etiquette to great effect especially in how these attitudes influenced the choices of which men should be offered powerful jobs. When reading this era of historical fiction, I often find myself amazed the the British Empire existed at all, let alone how we ruled so many nations for so long!

Superintendent Le Fanu is very much on the edge of polite society thereby enabling us as readers to look in. His 'scandalous' choices of girlfriends reveals his character, but I liked that he is in no way a lothario. Unravelling murders might be his forte, but personal relationships certainly are not! Stoddart has created an interesting and diverse cast of supporting characters. I did sometimes get confused by exactly who was who among the lesser roles, but I liked Watson and Habi. A Straits Settlement is an intricate yet cosy mystery. Stoddart keeps a good pace, but this book is one for readers who enjoy studying clues, not for breathless thriller fans. It's certainly worth taking time over and I would recommend stocking up on a few Le Fanu mysteries now that the evenings are beginning to draw in.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Brian Stoddart / Crime and mystery / Books from New Zealand

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Daughter Of The Desert by Georgina Howell


Daughter of the Desert: The Remarkable Life of Gertrude Bell by Georgina Howell
First published by Macmillan in August 2006

Where to buy this book:
Buy from independent booksellers via Abebooks
Buy from independent booksellers via Alibris
Buy the book from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk

How I got this book:
Borrowed from my partner

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Our friends, Andy and Barbara, bought Dave a copy of Daughter Of The Desert for his birthday and I am a little embarrassed that it took me ten months to get around to reading this biography of the amazing woman who was Gertrude Bell. Especially as Dave was singing its praises months ago.

Gertrude Bell lived several lives within one! In her mountain climbing 'phase', she outclimbed practically every one else in the Alps and there is still a peak named after her. Once she set her sights on Arabia, she completed months of nomadic journeys at the head of an effectively royal train of horses, camels and men, publishing several books of her journeys. (The most famous of these, The Desert And The Sown, is now on my Goodreads TBR list!) She dabbled, to a professional standard, in archaeology, taught herself cartography, created a national museum in Baghdad, and was one of the main driving forces pushing for Arabic self-rule in what became Iraq, Jordan and Syria. It sounds breathtaking in brief and Georgina Howell manages to keep the excitement simmering through most of the many pages of her biography. Howell understands Bell completely and has obviously spent a huge amount of time immersed in her published writing and private letters in order to produce such a well-rounded portrait. I loved the inclusion of sections of Bell's own words in a distinctive font. This device was effective and helped to maintain pace in a way that paraphrasing would have thwarted. I admit I did begin to flag during the intense politics of the post-Great War years, but overall I thoroughly enjoyed reading this biography.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Georgina Howell / Biographies / Books from England

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Ghosts Of Tsavo by Vered Ehsani + Free book


Ghosts of Tsavo by Vered Ehsani
Published on February 14th 2014.

One of my WorldReads from South Africa.

Ghosts Of Tsavo is the first in the Society Of Paranormals series. It's free alone as an ebook, but I've learned of an excellent special offer on a boxset of the first four books right now. The boxset is just 99c / 99p on Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk / Smashwords until midnight tonight (no idea whose time zone!). Hurry!

Where to buy this book:
Buy from independent booksellers via Abebooks
Free ebook download from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Free ebook download from Smashwords

How I got this book:
Received a free copy from Vered Ehsani as a reward for signing up to her email newsletter

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

'Where African myth meets Victorian manners: Armed with Victorian etiquette, a fully loaded walking stick and a dead husband, Beatrice Knight arrives in colonial Kenya desperate for a pot of tea and a pinch of cinnamon. But she’ll need more than that if she’s to unravel the mystery of the Ghosts of Tsavo without being eaten in the process. She must endure all manner of inconveniences while surviving the machinations of her best friend’s dashing godfather and the efforts of her safari guide to feed her to any lion willing to drag her away. What is a ghost-chasing widow to do?
Ghosts of Tsavo is the first case in “Society for Paranormals”, in which a paranormal detective refuses to let danger, death and unwanted suitors inconvenience her in colonial Kenya. Welcome to a series concerning dead husbands, African mythology and the search for a perfect spot of tea. If you adore “Pride & Prejudice”, appreciate British humor, enjoy paranormal mysteries, or would love to experience adventure in colonial Africa, download Ghosts of Tsavo to start your supernatural safari today.'

This steampunk novel is set in late-Victorian era Nairobi in the days when this city was still just a rough settlement in a swamp. We travel there with English expatriate family the Sewards as they try to make themselves a new life away from the social disaster of their bankruptcy back home. Ehsani has created great characters for this family: the mother who is desperate to maintain her English lifestyle despite its total impracticality, the daughter who seems to see no point in living anywhere without fashionable shops, and the father who may nominally be the head of the family, but who doesn't really stand a chance!

Leading our novel is the formidable Mrs Beatrice Knight, tea drinker, widow and paranormal investigator. I loved her forthright way of thinking and dry sense of humour, especially where Ehsani includes nods to the rigid social rules of the day even as our heroine resolutely ignores them. I frequently found myself smiling and giggling as I read. Historical Nairobi is nicely evoked to give an atmospheric backdrop to the ghostly mystery that occupies Beatrice, however perhaps a little more focus could have been given to the lions themselves as they did seem almost incidental at times. There is so much else going on! I particularly thought the wrapping up of the lion storyline was hasty and would have liked to have learned more about how exactly this would pan out in the future.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Vered Ehsani / Steampunk fiction / Books from South Africa

Friday, 9 September 2016

Route Number 11: Argentina, Angels and Alcohol by Harry Whitewolf


Route Number 11: Argentina, Angels and Alcohol by Harry Whitewolf
Self published in June 2013.

Where to buy this book:
Buy from independent booksellers via Abebooks
Buy from independent booksellers via Alibris
Buy the ebook from Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository

How I got this book:
Took advantage of an Amazon free download promotion

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

'All alone in Argentina, with only a guardian angel, a broken heart and an abundance of beer for company. With no plans, no time limit, and sometimes no sense, the nameless tourist travels not only around Argentina but also across the borders to Paraguay, Chile and Brazil, through a blur of smoky bars, sexy señoritas, backpackers, locals, lucky escapes and magnificent mountains, whilst being guided by signs and the mysterious 11:11 Phenomenon. This true story reads almost like fiction. Told in a tangle of cut up twisted timelines, showing snippets and snapshots with bustling city and small town backdrops, Route Number 11 is a beat driven, beer drinking, Mind Body Spirit book with sex, drugs and reggaeton...'

I wasn't sure what to expect from Route Number 11, but having seen good Goodreads reviews and stumbled across a chance to download Whitewolf's book for free, I did so and enjoyed getting myself caught in his South American escapade. Whitewolf writes in distinctive prose which is frequently actually poetry and I thought this a very effective way to put across his journey. His heavy drinking, chica chasing and bus riding would swiftly have become dull reading in a straight travel memoir, but I found this book to be alive with memories and musings, both travel-related and on a spiritual level. Despite the alcoholic haze, he retained a sharp eye for interesting detail. Reading Route Number 11 over the past couple of days has reawakened my wanderlust in a big way, although whether I would set out alone to South America for as many months as Whitewolf intended to stay I don't know. I was quietly pleased that I understood all his Spanish though! In criticism, perhaps the spiritual aspect of the book was pushed too heavily for my taste. However, too spookily, I had my own 11/11 experience within a few hours of finishing Route Number 11 so maybe this is my cue to become more in tune with the universe.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Harry Whitewolf / Travel books / Books from England